This section of the course, titled “Who’s There? Critically Engaging Issues of Diversity in Children’s Literature,” continues to further the total reframing of this course begain in Fall 15 to better meet student needs and increase genuine critical thinking and engagement in conversations about diversity within the course. The concept of diversity will be deeply grappled with in this course and we will consider a broad range of diversity including: social class, language, race/ethnicity, learning styles, age, geographic location, religion, learning ability, family type, physical ability, location on the gender spectrum, nationality, and sexuality
All of the text selections, in-class materials, and assignments were crafted to enable to students to deeply consider who is (and isn’t) visible in Children’s Literature published in the United States and to engage in conversations about the impact of the presence and absence of groups and individuals within Children’s Literature.
The most exciting revision from the Fall 2015 section is, in my opinion, the changes I made to the presentation assignment. This assignment is vital to this course in many ways, but since ENG100 has no prerequisites at Lane, students have often struggled with the assignment because it involved doing the kind of research that most students don’t really learn how to do until they’ve completed one or more college-level Writing courses, which many students who register for the course have not. I’ve grappled a lot with how to maintain the integrity and rigor of the assignment over the past few years while making the assignment more accessible and empowering to the wide variety of students who register for the course.
I combined several pieces of strong feedback provided by students during Fall term to revise the assignment. Several students wanted me to assign more critical theory readings at the start of the course in order to give students a deeper understanding of the importance of diversity within Children’s Literature. Several other students suggested that the presentation assignment might be a stronger learning experience and produce presentations that are stronger and more interesting for their audience if I provided specific theoretical texts that the whole class had access to and that students were required to engage in their presentations.
So at the start of this term, as a class, we will be reading/watching significantly more teacher-selected theoretical sources focused on providing a framework for thinking about the role and importance of diversity in the field of Children’s Literature. Then, instead of having to do independent research, students will select three of the theoretical pieces that we’ve discussed and engaged together to incorporate into their presentations. Students who would also like to conduct independent research will be able to do so and to include this research to their presentations as well. This will not only respond directly to the two pieces of feedback from students that I mentioned above, but I think it will also really strengthen students’ presentations and their learning in this assignment by allowing them to focus on applying the theoretical texts rather than getting frustrated while finding appropriate theoretical texts to use in the first place.
I’m also excited about the specific Children’s Literature texts we’ll be reading together this term. I think the selection of texts will raise a variety to thoughts/ideas about the role of diversity in Children’s Literature and will also really help to demonstrate how the ideas in the theoretical pieces we’ll examine together at the start of the course play out in the reality of Children’s Lit.
This section of the course was, in my opinion, the most successful I’ve taught so far at Lane. The revisions I made to the presentation assignment finally made the assignment a truly successful learning experience for most students in the course and made the presentations far more interesting and engaging for the audience. I’m so glad I didn’t just abandon this assignment all together after having failed to get it to work as I’d hoped in earlier terms. Thanks to much help and feedback from students in prior terms the assignment has finally reached the learning potential I’d envisioned when I created the first iteration of it years ago.
This cohort of students was also among the most willing I’ve ever had in any of my teaching experiences to willingly and fully participate in really complex and often difficult discussions about a broad range of topics. While I always learn at least as much from my students as I teach them, in this class I learned so much more from my students, their experiences, and their willingness to engage than I ever could have taught them. The not only helped me see specific texts and assignments in new ways, but also helped me broaden and deepen my understand of contemporary Children’s Literature as a whole. I hope I’m able to continue to foster space for such discussions in future iteration of the course.